Lack of aggression and apparent altruism towards intruders in a primitive termite
Vitikainen, Emma I.K,
Marshall, Harry H.
van Rooyen, Wilmie
Smith, Robert L.
Cant, Michael A.
Royal Society Open Science
© 2016 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited
In eusocial insects, the ability to discriminate nestmates from non-nestmates is widespread and ensures that altruistic actions are directed towards kin and agonistic actions are directed towards non-relatives. Most tests of nestmate recognition have focused on hymenopterans, and suggest that cooperation typically evolves in tandem with strong antagonism towards non-nestmates. Here we present evidence from a phylogenetically and behaviourally basal termite species that workers discriminate members of foreign colonies. However, contrary to our expectations, foreign intruders were the recipients of more rather than less cooperative behaviour, and were not subjected to elevated aggression. We suggest that relations between groups may be much more peaceable in basal termites compared to eusocial hymenoptera, owing to energetic and temporal constraints on colony growth, and the reduced incentive that totipotent workers (who may inherit breeding status) have to contribute to self-sacrificial intergroup conflict.
The research was supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (to MAC).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Royal Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 3, 160682.